Fan Fiction Oral History Project with Jacqueline

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Interviews by Fans
Title: Fan Fiction Oral History Project with Jacqueline
Interviewer: Lisa Cronin
Interviewee: Jacqueline
Date(s): July 6, 2012
Medium: audio, print transcript
Fandom(s):
External Links: Fiction Oral History Project with Jacqueline
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Fan Fiction Oral History Project with Jacqueline was conducted in 2012 by Lisa Cronin and archived at the University of Iowa Libraries.

This interview's medium is audio (length: 2:02:52), and it has a written 55-page transcript.

It was part of the series: Fan Fiction Oral History Project also referred to as "a Fiction and Internet Memory Research Project," "the Fiction and Internet Memory Program," and "Fan Fiction and Internet Memory."

The interviews conducted for this project were used for the book by Abigail De Kosnik called Rogue Archives: Digital Cultural Memory and Media Fandom.

Some Topics Discussed

Excerpts

I published several of [print zines] by myself and I participated in the publishing of others that I did not myself publish. I did a lot of galley slave work on. Oh, which one was she publishing? MASIFORM D. Which was then Devra/Poison Pen Press's Trek Zine. I collated for it, I actually illustrated for it, because I was an illustrator back in the Dark Ages —mainly because nobody liked my fan fic. Nobody still likes my fan fic, because it's bizarre and marginal, but you know, I deal with that. And I also published ... And that means I'm one of the last people in America who knows how to use a Gestetner, because I produced a zine on a hand- cranked Gestetner object.... That was fun. Devra used to do four-colored stuff on the Gestetner because SPOCKANALIA was a Gesteter zine for the first several issues and she produced multiple colors using the Gestetner, processed zines. You've got to put the same piece of paper through the machine. I remember times you had colors and you have got to hand register it.... And she managed that really well, and it was very impressive and ... No one now appreciates the wonderfulness of that.... How much work and how much skill was involved in getting everything to line up—not just once, not just twice—but five times.
I was after becoming a Swars fan. I went to, maybe, a WestCon once—no, wait, twice—and it was a lot of fun, but it was distant and inexpensive, and then I was in the middle of a divorce because, like so many people, Darth Vader was my co-respondent. (CRONIN laughs) And, after the divorce, there was seriously no money. But, oh God; I knew a lot of people who divorced because of Star Wars....Yeah, the spouses couldn't understand. And in very many cases they met a girl. That was the deep secret scandal of fandom. And there were huge fights about it back in the '70s and the early '80s, which was the deep and abiding female friendship... And so, all of the sudden, nearly as crazy as slash — we didn't really have the slash to fight about that yet because that came just a little later, but oh God, we could fight over sex.... And people were horrified at the thought that the people were actually being lesbians. Because it seemed they had some relationship to the fury of fandom, as far as I can guess, and the idea was, you were supposed to leave your husband and your family and everything and go off with this woman for the love of Spock, not for the love of her. (CRONIN laughs) So, it was—as usual—a religious issue. [snipped] Oh, God, print fandom was so completely different. I mean, the whole fight would be completely over and people would be writing curtain fics on the Internet now in about three weeks with stuff that it took fandom years to work out. But I totally miss the summer feud. Every summer we would come up with something to have a huge flame war about, all summer, while everybody was out at school because most of the fandom was college age. Or older.
So, it was the free time and then you would have things like, "Oh dear God, the letter from Lucasfilm" or "Oh dear God, it's slash!" or "The Duncan Sisters and their Evil Interpretation of Leia Organa Must Die" and it was a beautiful thing. So much fun. There was letter hacking. There were threats. There were insistences that people were leaving fandom forever, which of course worked out so well. Drama, tears, denunciations, it was wonderful. [snipped] For entertainment from the sidelines and also for—you got to passionately be engaged in something that you secretly knew didn't actually matter.
The thing about having girlfriends and cliquing? Oh God, no. No, mostly I was being beaten up by the cheerleaders in high school, which leaves me uniquely qualified to write Stargate Atlantis fic but doesn't qualify as the traditional growing-up curve.
I got to hang out with Chris Claremont. So, double-win. And was completely infatuated with the Marvel 'verse, wrote fan fic, collected stuff, but still did not interact with other fans. I could not find them. Of course, being a female comic fan, I'm pretty sure they weren't there to find. Not [very many of them] at that period, and I was also hanging as a professional, in the field at that time, because I was writing for Warren Magazine Group. Creepy. Eerie. Vampirella. Black and white. Nobody's really heard of them these days, so I can truthfully say on my resume "I used to kill vampires for a living." It's true, I did. But I couldn't make the transition to the colored books because they told me—Paul Levitz told me to my face that women didn't write comic books. There's a huge, huge—. I cannot overestimate the hugeness of the sexism in the field at that period, which would have been the early '80s.
I became a professional writer. And everybody really flipped about that because at all the cons, the people wanted to transition. Let me tell you, they sucked; just could not do it. It was like making the transition between writing fanzines and writing pro stuff. It was the exact same problem. And they had it. As I told many of them. As I had no tact in those days, at all. (CRONIN laughs) And I figured everybody wanted to know the truth. But, actually; no. I can tell you, they don't want to know the truth. They want a comforting lie, thank you, especially when you are telling them that they're stupid. (CRONIN laughs) They don't actually wish to hear this. I know that comes as a shock to all of us, but it's true.... Chris didn't want to hear that his stuff sucked. He also didn't want to hear that I had a higher page rate than he did—but I did. Which was because they were Warren, and Warren paid like crazy people. I think they must have been some kind of true crime, money laundering scheme, because they were very, very bizarre people to work for. They didn't have an office. I mean, no—. Logically, they had an office, because everybody does. But when you went, if you went to deliver in person, you went to this place down at Alphabet City and there was a door. And the door had a slot in it. And you would ring the bell and this little, like, speak-easy door on the top would open, and there would be someone on the other side, and the slot would open, and you would slide your script through. And they would accept your script, and then they would slide the check through the other way. And I'm fairly sure that normal people don't do business this way.
And [writing a Stargate/House crossover with porn for Pat Nussman as a gift] was actually my introduction to the idea that fandom was cooperative, because ... The stuff that I wrote before I was fannishly interacting was non-identical to the stuff I wrote after I was fannishly interacting. When you're non-fannish interacting stuff, you're just writing it because you think, Oh my God, this character is so hot. I must have more of that. You're writing for yourself. Period. You're not writing for anybody else's reaction. When you're in fandom, and then writing among fans and with the expectation that your work is going to be seen by other fans, you're at least, partly writing to achieve a response from them. And you're writing in context of the tradition. For example, you're writing to debunk curtain fic or you're writing to do a terribly slashy commentary on the Atlantis BDSM, doms and subs integrated into the whole lifestyle thing. I forget what the over-title for that series was called and I was not actually involved in that schlock. But I read about the wank [1], and the wank was a beautiful thing—especially since I was not involved. But you're writing at other people to an extent, and you're writing imagining their reaction. And that does, to a certain extent, change what you're going to write. For example, you might write politically correct stuff, which means that you've got to like Cameron Mitchell, because of all of those damned Farscape [unintelligible], which have nothing to do with Cameron Mitchell, and refuse to admit it, but the most—what's his name—Crichton. So, [unintelligible] four are bringing this whole "I've brought Cameron Mitchell" to the table, despite the fact that it is an unpleasant, suckly-written character that Ben Browder also happens to play.
I am also old school enough to feel that you don't write in someone else's verse without their permission. The new kids, out there—you shall "Get off of my lawn"— seem to feel that once it's out there, it operates with the same rules as other transformative work and I've always felt that, No, the fan writer deserves more consideration. And I actually had a manifesto, which addresses this, and it's because the fan writer isn't doing this for money and the only thing the fan writer gets, the total payment, is props from other fans. And so, if you—in the fandom, "you"—are taking the fan writers' stuff and building on it without agreement or acknowledgment, you are stealing their potential kudos. And it's actual theft; not in the monetary sense, because this is a gift culture, but in the sense of taking away the possibility of that fan to receive more rewards in terms of people saying, Oh, yay, about their work, because you took it. And possibly people will even think you invented it. So, in that sense, it's possible to steal from fans by taking their work without acknowledgment where it's not possible to steal from original creators.
...there was a challenge, approximately 100,000 years ago, i.e., probably around 2007, called The Darkfic Challenge—no, The Darkgate Challenge—and it was supposed to be, "Hello, we are going to write darkity-dark Stargate fic of darkness and it will be darkful." And, no, people, that was not "darkful." That was kittens and bunnies and little floppy unicorns and My Little Pony mashups and ... Give me a break. (CRONIN laughs) So, Synechdochic wrote "Close to Bone" and I wrote "All Heads Turn When the Hunt Goes By"—because serial killer Daniel is never not going to be fun—and then people were going, Oh my God. You can't do this!, and, It's horrible! And then they started playing the modern, bizarre fandom card, which is "I am a X survivor of"—pick your trauma of the week—"and this hurts me in my hurty places." Yeah, good for you, cupcake. Back in the day, we had more balls when we read fanzines. (CRONIN laughs) Because ... I was just really tired of the "I am all hurt by this because it is triggery of my itchy." For God's sakes people, if a badly written fan story is going to set you off, get off the Internet, now. Because, you're lucky if you can figure out what the hell I was talking about with the punctuation. (CRONIN laughs) But my view is not universally shared and then we segue into the great warnings debate yet again. Which ... No, I'm not going to do it, and the reason I'm not going to do it is because you want me to do it so much.
And [RaceFail] was a complete and total mess, because so much of it was not actually about RaceFail. Which, was also sad, because I also had a lot of friends on all sides of it getting collateraled. And I could see what a bunch of the issues involved were and how they weren't racially connected, but that wasn't terribly visible in general. Oh, yeah [there was a lot of subtext going on]. People were choosing to settle old fannish views—which is what Patrick got nailed, poor man. Oh, Patrick Nielsen Hayden was why I was being, "racist," which, just to begin with—. He's Canadian and does not understand these things of which you speak in an American context. Which is ingenuous I know, because Canadians can do anything Americans can—including being horribly racist—but in Patrick's case that was really not what was going on. But he is an acerbic, high profile editor and a lot of people were doing payback for that and not for RaceFail related issues or even the fact that they seriously—in their secret hearts—didn't think he was racist, because they didn't. They thought he was elitist—which, he is. But there's a fine fannish tradition of elitism. And, also, there was the whole ... Nobody could agree on definition and several different cultures clashing. So, it was a complete car crash. People thought that other people were being colonialist and attempting to co-op the situation when, from their point of view, they were offering the traditional "hand up, paying forward" thing, in working your own connections to enable somebody else's progress. And they look a lot alike and if you're coming from two different cultures, there will be great confusion. So, it was massive ... The basic result was that everyone was scared to talk to each other for a long time.
...that's actually the critique of the Mary Sue. I did meta about that. We tend to call all original characters "Mary Sue," but Mary Sue is actually a specific type who the reader hates because, by her existence, she is excluding the reader from exploring. And the reader wants to be included. The reader wants to come along. The reader wants you, the author, to let them into the universe and to be their guide and to help them with it. And not slam the door, lock them out, and say, I'm the only one who can have this. And that's what a Mary Sue does. And that's why readers hate her.
The fans on AO3 have a totally different culture than the fans on Dreamwidth, just for an example. The fans that I— that went into doing this fannish engagement on DeviantART are engaging in fandom in a wholly different way than the fans on Dreamwidth or other journaling platforms. The fans on Facebook who, I don't engage with fannishly because I'm there professionally, but I see them being fannish there, and they are engaging with fandom in a different way. I think that the platform really dictates your interaction. It's almost like your platform is your religion. So, Catholic, or Protestant, or Jewish and ... The platform affects your entire interaction.

References

  1. Jacqueline is most likely referring to Take Clothes Off As Directed and other similar response fics to Coming Home.